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Fact-checking 'Mike' on Hulu: Did Robin Givens really bring her mom on her first date with Tyson?

Spoiler alert! This story contains details from the first four episodes of the Hulu miniseries "Mike." 

Hold onto your ears.

Hulu’s "Mike" (first four episodes now streaming; new episodes released Thursdays) is a bite-sized look at heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson (played as an adult by “Moonlight” star Trevante Rhodes). Told over eight half-hour episodes that frequently break the fourth wall by addressing viewers, the miniseries tracks Tyson’s meteoric rise and wild, turbulent life outside the ring.

Tyson, 56, has vehemently slammed the drama, writing on Instagram earlier this month that Hulu "stole my life story." Here’s what the series gets right and wrong about the sports legend and "The Hangover" star.

'They stole my life story': Mike Tyson calls Hulu a 'slave master' over unauthorized show

Ruth (Leslie Silva, left) Mike (Trevante Rhodes) and Robin (Laura Harrier) meet for dinner in the third episode of "Mike."
Ruth (Leslie Silva, left) Mike (Trevante Rhodes) and Robin (Laura Harrier) meet for dinner in the third episode of "Mike."

Did Robin Givens actually bring her mom to her first date with Tyson?

The third and fourth episodes are dedicated to Tyson's relationships with greedy ex-promoter Don King (Russell Hornsby) and Tyson's first wife, actress Robin Givens (Laura Harrier), whom he married in 1988. They filed for divorce eight months later, and it was finalized the next year.

As depicted in the show, Tyson writes in his 2013 memoir "Undisputed Truth" that he first saw Givens on TV while he was in bed with another woman. Tyson immediately reached out to a friend, who got in touch with Givens' agent and set up a first date for the pair at a restaurant in Los Angeles.

When he arrives for dinner early in Episode 3, Tyson is surprised to learn that Givens has brought along her mom, Ruth (Leslie Silva), and her publicist. "My mother is very protective of me," Givens tells him.

"I should have known something was up when I walked into the restaurant and Robin was sitting there with her sister, her mother and her publicist," Tyson writes in his memoir. "I also didn't know that Robin and her mother, Ruth, had been on the prowl for a big Black celebrity for Robin since she graduated from college. ... Her mother was a prolific stage mom, investing in her daughter so that she could be, or at least marry, somebody big."

In a joint TV interview with Tyson in September 1988, Givens told Barbara Walters that he had "a volatile temper" and was "pure hell" to live with. Two months later, Givens filed a $125 million libel suit against Tyson for allegedly telling the New York Post that she was trying to "steal" his money and property. She later told Essence that she never received "a dime" from their reported divorce settlement.

Mike Tyson is surrounded by pigeons on the set of his Animal Planet show "Taking on Tyson" in 2011.
Mike Tyson is surrounded by pigeons on the set of his Animal Planet show "Taking on Tyson" in 2011.

Did a childhood bully really behead his pet pigeon?

The show begins with young Mike (Zaiden James) growing up in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, where he gets picked on by other kids for his lisp and weight. In one early scene, a bully rips the head off one of Mike's beloved pet pigeons and throws the blood on him. Enraged, Mike beats up the boy and discovers his knack for fighting.

It's a story that the real Tyson has recounted many times in interviews and on his Twitter account, writing in 2013 that it was "love at first fight." Not only did the incident plant a seed for his future boxing career, but it also sheds light on his lifelong obsession with fowl: At one point, Tyson owned as many as 2,500 birds in various locations, according to Reuters. He even starred in the Animal Planet docuseries "Taking on Tyson" in 2011, which followed his 300 competitive racing pigeons.

Joan Rivers (Coley Campany, right) interviews Mike Tyson (Trevante Rhodes) in a scene from Hulu's "Mike."
Joan Rivers (Coley Campany, right) interviews Mike Tyson (Trevante Rhodes) in a scene from Hulu's "Mike."

Did he actually discuss his sex life on 'The Joan Rivers Show?'

In the last scene of the second episode, 20-year-old Mike (Rhodes) becomes the youngest heavyweight champion in the world when he beats then-champ Trevor Berbick during a 1986 fight. Before the hotly anticipated showdown, Mike sits for an interview with talk show host Joan Rivers (Coley Campany), who playfully probes him on his sex and dating life.

Their real-life conversation is recreated almost verbatim in the series. "When you go into training, do you give up sex? Because my husband always tells me he's in training," Rivers joked, before asking Tyson whether women "throw themselves" at him. In response, he offered that he has "a lot of lady friends" and doesn't forgo sex.

At the end of the interview, Rivers invites Tyson back on her show after the Berbick match – and he did return about a month later.

Did Mike really trade luxury cars for tigers?

Mike Tyson, left, leaves a Las Vegas boxing gym with his pet tiger, Kenya, in 1995.
Mike Tyson, left, leaves a Las Vegas boxing gym with his pet tiger, Kenya, in 1995.

The series jumps between the past and the present day, as Mike recounts his life story in a solo stage show, "Undisputed Truth." In the first few minutes of Episode 1, Mike tells the audience how he once ordered pet tigers during a prison phone call with his car dealer.

Although only briefly mentioned in "Mike," Tyson elaborated on the experience during a 2019 episode of "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast. At the tail end of his three-year prison stint for a 1992 rape conviction, Tyson learned through a well-connected friend that he could exchange his luxury vehicles for tigers.

"(I was) a young guy," Tyson told Rogan and comedian Tom Segura. "I’m saying to myself, 'Wow, that would be cool. Get me some cubs, man.' "

Tyson started with two tigers, which were waiting for him when he was released from prison a couple of months later, the boxer told rapper Fat Joe during an Instagram Live chat in 2020. He eventually bought more big cats – some of which even slept in bed with him – although he's since given the exotic animals to sanctuaries.

Executive produced by the team behind Tonya Harding biopic "I, Tonya," Hulu's limited series "Mike" traces the life so far of boxer Mike Tyson (Trevante Rhodes, center).
Executive produced by the team behind Tonya Harding biopic "I, Tonya," Hulu's limited series "Mike" traces the life so far of boxer Mike Tyson (Trevante Rhodes, center).

Did he actually curse a reporter on live TV?

The first episode focuses on Tyson's troubled childhood: street-fighting and robbing houses at age 10 before he was sent to a juvenile detention center, where he started training to box at 13. The series aims to depict how these experiences toughened Tyson by showing a combative interview as an adult, in which a TV host (Milton L. Crosby) asks, "Is it harder for you being called a convicted rapist, or is it more nerve-wracking for you to box?" Mike proceeds to curse him out before the journalist cuts the conversation short.

Tyson really did tell off a reporter on live TV, although the actual context was quite different. In 2014, the boxer went on a Canadian news show to promote "Undisputed Truth." Tyson met a day earlier with disgraced Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who was gunning for reelection. News anchor Nathan Downer suggested that associating with Tyson could damage Ford's campaign.

"Some of your critics would say, 'There’s a race for mayor. We know you’re a convicted rapist. This could hurt his campaign,' " Downer asked Tyson. "How would you respond to that?"

"It's so interesting because you seem like a nice guy but you’re really a piece of (expletive)," Tyson responded, before unleashing a string of expletives. Downer ended the interview.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Tyson fact check: What’s real, what’s not in the Hulu show